To Welcome the Tears and Not Be Afraid
There are days when SFW cries without any apparent discernible reason. It's different than the times when he cries because his head hurts or because he's anxious about a test at school or because he's mad at someone. We can ask questions, get answers, suggest solutions, and help him return to his usual state of happy when the tears have words. Other days when he cries, he's inconsolable. His tears seem to come from a primal place deep within him, an expression of something that no improvement in his cognitive capacity or speech function would ever give voice to.
When the inconsolable tears come, we don't urge him to talk. We give him space, let him cry without the burden of a lot of questions and the need to comfort us by giving us an explanation for the way he feels. He could never express it, but he has a way of making sense of it himself. It never lasts long, a few hours at most. Our first clue that it's over is the blaring stereo from his room. He sings along at the top of his voice, dancing wildly to the music's beat. The tears are his sackcloth and ashes. His dance is ritual, a way of marking the end of his sadness. The music bathes him in joy, washing away the darkness of the longings and loss expressed in his tears. Whatever it is that births the tears gives way to a contentment and joy that is equally devoid of explanation.
I don't know what it means for him. There's always a temptation to put words to his experience. His speech disorder invites that kind of power-over response. We work hard to understand the ways in which he does communicate with us, but there is a fine line between understanding and interpreting. All too often, I fear, I cross that line. I hate that it takes away what little voice he has.
I don't try to interpret the meaning of his inconsolability because I believe there is much about his life that it is painful and for which there is nothing that brings comfort. The space to cry affirms his sense of anger and outrage, of despair and longing that comes from being made fun of or ignored because he's different or from wanting something more out of life. The emotions proclaim loudly that he deserves better. I believe he needs to hear their message.
While I don't want to interpret his experience, reflecting on it has become a window on my own life, making visible the depth of sadness and anger that I sometimes feel with or without explanation. The weeping comes and I can't explain it. It scares me. I'm afraid if I welcome it, it will never leave. I fear its power and worry that it will consume me.
SFW has taught me to practice hospitality toward my own emotions. I'm learning to welcome the sadness and anger when they come, even when I can't directly connect the feelings to a specific experience. I think the tears that come from a deep place in my soul are planted by the winds of a spirit that connects me to the universe, to the generations that have come before me, to a world that groans with the pain and suffering we cause for ourselves and others. They play the part of prophet, a messenger of God naming my brokenness. They speak of what's not right and demand justice.
I still fight sadness and anger when they show up, but I'm learning to welcome them as trusted friends in my life. I don't always like what they tell me. But when I listen, they speak truth and bring healing. They don't stay forever, and when they do go, I find that they've left gifts. Peace and strength take up residence in their place, giving me freedom to embrace all that is good, to enjoy God, to celebrate this human life.